Chor-Bakr Necropolis


According to one of Bukhara ancient popular beliefs, if within one day a person manages to make pilgrimages to fourmazars (graves) of the saints named Bakr, any wish of his will come true. That is why Chor-Bakr necropolis, which means ‘four Bakrs’, is so popular in the Islamic world. The necropolis grew around the much revered tomb of Abu Bakr Sayed in the village of Sumitan near Bukhara.

The origin of the cult burial site in Sumitan dates back to the time of the Samanids. Saint Abu Bakr Sayed was a descendant of  Prophet Muhammad, and an ancestor of Sheikh Hajji Islam Jubayri also known as Hajji Kalyan (‘Hajji the Great’). During the rule of the Uzbek Sheybanid dynasty Sumitan was handed over to Jubayri sheiks, whose influence on Bukhara’s political and cultural life was very strong. Eventually, Chor Bakr became the burial ground of Jubayris’ family. Within couple of centuries there appeared many fenced spaces with darvaza (gates) containing dakhma burial chambers and saganatombs. In 1560 – 1563 Bukhara ruler Abdullakhan ordered to build a mosque, a madrassah and a khanaga (hospice for pilgrims) as a tribute to the powerful sheikhs.

The three buildings were constructed in the center of the necropolis, at the crossroads of its alleys. On the open side of the square formed by the three buildings a smaller copy of Kalyan Minaret was erected in the early 20th century. To the north of the necropolis there was laid out a chorbog (garden). There were planted poplars, planes, junipers, willows, peach-trees, apple-trees, pear-trees, grapevines, and roses. The five-kilometre-long road leading from the city gates up to the necropolis was lined by irrigation ditches with trees on their banks, so that during his journeys to Chor-Bakr  Abdullakhan could enjoy the shade of the alley.

All three buildings make up a harmonious architectural complex. The mosque and khanaqa have large arched portals. The sides of the buildings facing the yard have two tiers of loggias, which is not typical of these types of structures. The façade of the madrassah at the end of the yard has loggias, too. Huge domes span the main halls of the mosque and khanaga. Inside the halls the intersections of the arches and net-like pendentives support elegant windowed drums crowned with cupolas with decorative stalactites.

Peace and serenity of Chor-Bakr, one of the most impressive and picturesque Central Asian architectural complexes, involuntarily remind people of perishable nature of earthly pleasures and the eternity of the Universe.